It is 4:30 a.m. on the third day of a brand new year, and I've been up for an hour already.
In my fantasy world, I am the kind of person who rises each day before dawn and writes soul-grabbing prose before the rest of the house wakes up. I read somewhere that when you write first thing in the morning, you harness your most creative thoughts. Truth is, I woke up to use the bathroom and couldn't go back to sleep.
I tossed and turned for a while, prayed for a few people who came to mind, and finally gave up on sleeping. In a little while, the rest of my family will rise and we will make our way to the airport to head for home.
We arrived at my parents' house in Maryland, the home I grew up in, at around noon on Christmas Day, said goodbye to 2017 together on New Year's Eve, and ushered in a new year together over the past couple of days. Our kids got to enjoy everything we'd hoped for them: a Christmas with tons of family around, a week of arctic weather, a day of snow tubing, and even a few hours of actual snow that coated the streets and sidewalks and yards for a couple of days. It goes without saying that we also enjoyed multiple feasts and unending treats. My mom is an amazing cook and we are very talented food consumers.
Even after more than 11 years away, every time I get on a plane to fly back to Texas, I feel more like I'm leaving my home instead of heading back to it. My Maryland roots are strong. Plus, I will never stop missing my family. Also, if I'm honest, I've boarded many Texas-bound airplanes overwhelmed with sorrow and even dread...not because I have anything in particular against the "Friendship" state, but because I was often going back to some really hard stuff.
This morning, something different is in the air -- and it's not just the remnant wafts of the fantastic spaghetti-and-from-scratch-meatball dinner or the loaves of pumpkin bread my mom concocted yesterday. This morning, it's hope.
If hope had a scent, I imagine it would smell something like a cool spring breeze and the half dozen or so whoopie pies I stuffed my face with this week. It is exhilarating and tantalizingly sweet.
It's also terrifying.
When you stared death in the face with your daughter just months ago and now her cancer's gone, but the three-month scans are coming up, you hope. And you fear.
When you trudged through a decade of your spouse's unrelenting pain and illness and have been witnessing for months now what seems like it could be his recovery, you hope. And you fear.
When you grasp hold of a dream that's been blossoming in your mind and decide it's time to go for it, come what may, you hope. And you fear.
Thankfully, hope trumps fear every time. (For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13)
I've never chosen or even considered a defining word for an upcoming year, but if I could go back and choose one for 2017, it would have been Hope. I was challenged to choose a word for 2018 and I'd like to say that I spent time in prayer and scoured the Bible and meditated on what my word should be. But my word literally jumped into my mind and stuck: Leap!
I'm not a risk taker. I'm more of a dip-my-toes-in-the-water kind of girl. I like baby steps. I've always got a fall-back plan and an escape route. I almost never leap.
Leaping, after all, involves a high risk of falling. But so does baby stepping across a chasm or dipping toes in a raging river. Leaping is standing on a wide, flat, solid rock, peering beyond a great chasm of risk and a raging river of fear, and deciding that the tiny patch of grass you can barely see will offer more growth and joy than the safe, flat rock ever could...and then mustering every ounce of courage and gathering every bit of strength and whispering every desperate prayer, and jumping...knowing all the while that you may very well fall short of that patch of grass.
No safety net. No escape route.
Falling hurts, which is why I hate risk. But I hate fear more.
So, in 2018, I will hang onto hope.
And I will leap.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. --Isaiah 43:19